Junior Chamber International
Leaders of JCI Philippines talk about investing in young people who are ready to make a difference.
By CARLOS SANTOS
JCI Philippines leaders talk about investing in young leaders who are ready to bring about positive change.
In all career paths and community endeavors, leadership skills are of utmost importance. Junior Chamber International (JCI) stands for this belief, empowering young individuals to spark change by providing them with leadership opportunities.
More than a nonprofit organization (NPO), JCI is a global movement of young dynamic people aged 18 to 40, who are dedicated to creating positive impact in their respective communities. They come from a vast array of sectors and backgrounds, united by the common goal of driving social progress.
JCI members are invested in improving the world’s future. Accordingly, the group aims to develop their knowledge and skills so they can make the right decisions and take the necessary actions towards bettering society.
A LEGACY OF 105 YEARS
Henry Giessenbier, Jr. was the man behind this global movement. At 18 years old, he established the Herculeaneum Dance Club, a social outlet for the youth of his community. This laid the foundation for the first JCI Movement, the Young Men’s Progressive Association, which was formed in 1915 at the Mission Inn in St. Louis, Missouri, United States (US).
At present, the organization continues to be guided by globally minded leaders who promote diversity, encourage collaboration, and embrace innovative ideas. Among them is John Glenn Lee, national president (NP) of JCI Philippines.
FROM HEADING A BUSINESS TO LEADING A MOVEMENT
A native of Legazpi City, Lee started his leadership journey by managing a business in the hotel and restaurant industry. He was later introduced to JCI by his older brother, a fellow member of the organization. Legazpi’s vice mayor, who was the president of the local chapter at the time, also encouraged him to join the group. “Who would decline the invitation of a vice mayor?,” Lee joked when asked about why he became a JCI member. Lee’s 17-year stay with JCI Philippines after being officially accepted as a member in 2005 has been truly rewarding. He shares that he subscribes to the belief that “learning is always a continuing process.”
Moreover, he saw how JCI members are “learning by doing,” and he was impressed that the organization continually offers them opportunities for self-improvement. JCI Philippines has also helped him in his self-discovery, as members help each member get to know themselves more deeply. His skills and dedication enabled him to steadily climb the organizational ladder, becoming the national executive vice president and later the NP of JCI Philippines. Under his supervision, the organization zealously instilled leadership values in their young members. Lee relates how, on his way to the topmost leadership role, he made significant observations about the systematic and administrative aspects that he wanted to change in JCI Philippines. These, he boldly\ acted upon, with the cooperation of his co-leaders and members. Moreover, Lee strived to inspire members at the national level by executing relevant projects for various local chapters.
“Our final objective is to be a leadership development organization,” Lee shares proudly. He expounds that while JCI is not a charity organization per se, it was able to impact local communities positively by turning its young members into proactive citizens who spearhead change.
BEYOND JCI PHILIPPINES
JCI has chapters in more than 100 countries, with over 200,000 network leaders guiding a total of 11 million members. Additionally, JCI consists of about 100 national organizations and 5,000 community organizations. Because every chapter faces different issues, each one finds and creates targeted solutions to common local concerns. However, to manage a group with such an extensive membership, JCI maintains the consistency, reliability, and uniformity of their governing rules and guidelines for all chapters across the globe. “We aligned all our activities and regulations to the international level, because as an international organization, we have to be aligned,” Lee explains. According to him, JCI Philippines has around 200 local organizations or chapters in the country, composed of 7,000 members.
“Each chapter covers a community, city, or municipality. Our role in JCI is to determine or to know the problem in a community to be able to bridge the gap. That’s JCI,” he says. Furthermore, Lee stresses that his goal as the outgoing NP of JCI Philippines is not to dictate the actions of members, “but to empower them with the skills that they need to address a problem in their community.” The presidents of local chapters govern the members at the grassroots level. Hence, they are more aware of the most pressing issues in their community. With this local knowledge and familiarity, they are well-equipped to design the projects that will best resolve those issues.
Asked about the greatest contribution of JCI to the country, Lee shares that the national organization was founded in the Philippines after World War II, pioneering the JCI movement in Asia. The members initiated the clean-up of Manila to remove any remaining debris and to repair damage caused by the war.
Already big as it is, JCI Philippines continues to grow through the establishment of new chapters. “As a national organization, we want more chapters, but the way to extend it is local organizations sponsoring chapters. Along the way, if members see a problem in the community and they think there are people who want to participate in our movement, they extend the chapter. They share the movement, they train the people, so whatever we are doing, we can share with the community and the new chapter.” Lee also mentions that the national headquarters supports this expansion administratively and provides national training courses to help foster the leadership skills of newly recruited members. Aside from locally targeted projects, JCI also implements national programs such as Oplan Kaagapay, which entails fundraising efforts to provide funding for affected municipalities when a disaster strikes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, JCI activated ‘Got Heart’ along with Oplan Kaagapay to help slow the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
Additionally, JCI is committed to driving change on a global scale. In fact, the organization partnered with the United Nations (UN) to support their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Accordingly, in 2017, UN and JCI signed a memorandum of understanding in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to prolong its collaboration with the UN SDG Action Campaign. The partnership focused on advocating the SDGs, mobilizing young individuals so they can contribute to raising awareness of the SDGs, and facilitating crucial dialogue with stakeholders around the areas of priority in their respective communities.
UPHOLDING THE LEGACY OF JCI PHILIPPINES
Helping Lee ensure the continued success of JCI Philippines are two more members of the national board: Kerby Salazar, incoming NP, and Alfredo Mondiguing, Jr., national executive vice president. According to Lee, anyone dreaming “to be a well-rounded young individual who drives positive change” should become part of their organization. Furthermore, he says that “if you are someone who’s looking for an opportunity to not only be a catalyst but to really effect positive change in your workplace, in your community, or even in your family, JCI is the best organization to help you.” This statement clearly reflects the mission of JCI, which is “to provide development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change.” Mondiguing, Jr. adds that when outsiders think about JCI or NPOs in general, they mostly think about their charitable activities or programs, whether national or local. However, like Lee, he emphasizes that “the focus of JCI is to improve the members... Any organization can do a blood drive, a fun run, but JCI members do things differently. We take it one step higher, we train you to be better. So that’s the difference between us and other organizations. We focus on the members.” JCI’s centered and substantial focus on each member’s development is what sets the group apart from other international youth-targeted organizations. Instead of activities, JCI invests in individuals and ensures that they will be able to maximize their potential and foster their skills for both personal and social growth.
SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES IN NEED
JCI focuses on boosting social progress by providing assistance to communities in dire need of assistance. Asked about the greatest contribution of JCI to the country, Lee shares that the national organization was founded in the Philippines after World War II, pioneering the JCI movement in Asia. The members initiated the clean-up of Manila to remove any remaining debris and to repair damage caused by the war. The group coordinated with the Philippine Army, the Red Cross, and even private stakeholders to help make the city safe, functional, and livable again.
JCI also prides itself in helping mold notable leaders of the Philippines, such as in the executive and legislative branches of the national government, and even at the local level. JCI Philippines follows a framework to determine which communities need their support the most. Salazar also mentions that the process for finding places to help varies for every local chapter. “Most specifically during NP John Lee’s term, which I am planning to continue during my term, we gave independence to local organizations to, you know, be unique in crafting and formulating programs that they deem fit for the community where they are located. So, aside from the framework, we also encourage our local organizations to be creative in program crafting. He continues that apart from JCI’s main framework as well as its mission and vision, local chapters have flexibility in developing their own programs and projects.
BECOMING A JCI MEMBER: THE PROCESS
Young people within the age of 18 to 40 are welcome to join JCI. However, they should be sponsored by a current member. Additionally, while there is a set of established regulations that are implemented nationwide, such as the formal orientation of new JCI members, each local chapter has different ways of recruiting young individuals that fit the criteria, based on their culture and local customs. Underscoring the importance of teaching the youth about leadership, Salazar explains that when a young individual’s leadership skills are honed and developed, he or she becomes a valuable asset to the community. “That’s why, as mentioned by NP Lee, we focus on the members.
We train members, we equip them. And then, eventually, their effectiveness as a leader or a businessman, or whatever it is that they want to pursue, will just become a by-product of their training and whatever it is that they are going through or have gone through while they are members of JCI,” he shares. Any interested individual can look up the local organizations closest to them on the official website of JCI Philippines, www.jciphilippines.com.
They can also find updates and other information about the organization’s programs on the platform.
JCI: A CATALYST FOR PROGRESS
It bears repeating that JCI members aim to drive positive change, not just in their local communities or their home countries, but also on an international scale. Every day, in more than 100 countries, the globally minded and dynamic young members of JCI engage in a variety of activities which allow them to become more effective leaders and responsible citizens. Each member of the organization acknowledges that every person has rights and responsibilities.
They also share a profound passion for addressing the main problems of today’s modern world. The organization’s vision is “to be the foremost global network of young leaders.” Hence, JCI takes initiative and focuses on providing viable, relevant, and practical solutions to critical challenges the international community faces. Moreover, unlike most nonprofit or charitable organizations, JCI members do not just make one-time donations or become volunteers to certain service opportunities and outreach programs.
They prioritize creating sustainable and long-term positive impact locally and globally. JCI strongly believes that it only takes one proactive citizen to change the world, and by gathering like-minded young individuals, the organization can spread awareness at the international level and make bigger changes.